Beauty and the Dark

By: Georgia Le Carre



(Five Years Previously)


“Get up, Englishman,” a harsh voice barks at the same time the butt of an AK47 jams into my solar plexus.

My eyes fly open as I jack- knife upwards, winded and stunned. My hands flail wildly as I attempt to grab the thing that slammed into me, but the man has withdrawn it. He is looking down at me contemptuously, his smooth face gleaming with sweat. I get up on my elbows and take gasping breaths of air, but the air is so thick and hot it’s like sucking lava into your lungs. Malevolent.

“Get up,” the man yells again, and roughly pushes the barrel of his semi-automatic into my chest, driving me onto my back.

“What the fuck,” I swear, furious now. “If you want me to get up, quit fucking pushing me back on the bed.”

He moves back and I swing my legs down, my booted feet hitting the mud floor with a thud. I went to bed drunk, and my head is banging like some prick on crack is working an industrial sledgehammer inside it. I wince with the pain. Damn, they had to pick tonight of all nights.

Gritting my teeth, I force my head up.

The tent flap has been left open and the outside camp light seeps in allowing me a good look at the men. There are two of them and they are dressed in army gear, but it is clear they are rebels.

The one standing closest to me is of medium height, muscular, and as dark as the African night. Sweat is running down his temple in rivulets. He is wearing his ammunition belt as if it is a glinting scarf around his shoulders. His eyes tell me he is battle hardened and trigger-happy.

This is one man you don’t want to piss off.

The other man is standing by the tent flap with his gun held loosely at his side. He is tall and lean and wearing a maroon cap with badges on it. His army jacket is unbuttoned and underneath he is wearing a badly stained white T-shirt. There is something infinitely more dangerous about him than the jacked up, muscle shirt in front of me.

“You get up now. Come with us,” Beefy commands.

“Fuck you,” I tell him.

He raises his gun and points it directly at me.

I start laughing. At first lightly, then more raucously.

“Shut up, Englishman, or I kill you,” he shouts, bringing the black hole of his weapon closer to my face, but already, I can see that I have confused him. He has never encountered a man laughing at the thought of his own violent death.

It infuriates him that I am not afraid of him. “Stop laughing,” he screams.

I stop laughing, grab the barrel of his semi with both hands and pull it tight against my forehead. They say your whole life, everything you’ve ever done, all the people you’ve hurt and loved, flash before your eyes as you exit this cruel earth. Well, not for me.

I feel nothing.

Just numbness.

“Fucking do it! Shoot me,” I dare, staring him in the eye. “You’d be doing me a favor.’

“This man is crazy,” he pronounces, turning dumbfounded to his comrade. The dangerous one steps closer. His hat was covering his eyes so I couldn’t see them before. Now I do. They’re chillingly empty. Without a hint of humanity. He comes right up to my bed and stares down at me curiously.

Well, fuck you too. If he’s looking to see terror in my face, he won’t. Only darkness.

“You have a death wish, Englishman? How ironic then that you have come here to save people from death,’ he says in perfect English.

Obviously, he didn’t pick up that upper-class accent in Africa. He must have been educated in England. He’s right though. Even I can see the unintended irony.

“What do you want from me?” I ask.

‘Our leader has been shot. You are a doctor. You can save him.’

‘Thanks for the offer, but I think I’ll pass. Your leader is a fucking mass murderer.’

He smiles. ‘We are reasonable people, Englishman. We will give you a choice. Come with us or we will behead every man, woman, and child in this village and you can stay and bury them.”

A bead of sweat trickles down my spine. That’s the problem with this oppressive heat. You go to sleep sweaty, you wake up sweaty, and you get out of the shower sweaty. I look at the doorway to my tent. Through the open flap hordes of mosquitoes are flying in. There’ll be no sleep tonight.